KEENE — New Hampshire does not want to pay the $130,000 in attorney’s fees to ConVal’s lawyers, at least until it gets the education funding case heard by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
In a motion filed in the Cheshire Superior Court, the state is asking to hold off paying the bill as it is planning to file an appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in the coming days. The deadline to file the appeal is Aug. 28.
New Hampshire lost the education funding lawsuit to the Contoocook Valley Regional School District and three other school districts when Cheshire Superior Court Judge David Ruoff ruled that the state’s funding grants are in violation of the Claremont decisions and the New Hampshire Constitution.
As part of his ruling, Ruoff ordered that the state pay Michael Tierney and the other ConVal attorneys fees for the work done on the lawsuit. The state plans to appeal Ruoff’s entire ruling, including the legal fee order.
“The (State) intends to raise issues in the notice of appeal that directly implicate the petitioner’s entitlement to an award of fees in this case,” the motion states.
ConVal filed the lawsuit against the New Hampshire Department of Education, Commissioner Frank Edelblut, and Gov. Chris Sununu in March, seeking a nearly three-fold increase in the state education adequacy grant from around $3,600 per pupil to close to $10,000 per pupil. It was later joined in court by the Winchester, Monadnock, and Mascenic school districts.
ConVal’s argument is that the state is violating the New Hampshire Constitution, and is in violation of the Claremont New Hampshire Supreme Court decisions, by funding education as low as it does. The Claremont decisions from the 1980s and 1990s found that the state is constitutionally obligated to provide an adequate education. Tierney argued that using the state’s own data, compiled by the DOE, and the legislature’s formula for deciding the adequacy grant funding, the true grant per pupil should be around $10,000 and not $3,600.
Ruoff declined to dictate a specific amount in his ruling, but sent the question back to the legislature after clearly stating the current funding grants were not sufficient.
“(The funding formula is) not only unsupported by the legislative record but [is] clearly or demonstratively inadequate according to the Legislature’s own definition of an adequate education,” Ruoff ruled.
Tierney wrote in his affidavit to support a bill of close to $130,000 that he and his associates have put more than 600 billable hours into the case since consultations started in June of 2018. Of that, Tierney has put in more than 400 hours.